Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova fought back to win a pulsating French Open battle with her doubles partner Elena Rybakina and reach an elusive first grand slam semi-final. A decade after playing in the last eight of a major for the first time at Roland Garros, Pavlyuchenkova finally broke new ground with a hard-fought 6-7 (2-7) 6-2 9-7 victory on Tuesday.
The 29-year-old had lost six grand slam singles quarter-finals but the 31st seed will do battle with surprise package Tamara Zidansek for a place in the championship match in Paris.
Rybakina beat the great Serena Williams to reach the last eight and gave another demonstration of her huge promise, but made 43 unforced errors in an entertaining contest that took two hours and 33 minutes to settle on Court Philippe-Chatrier.
After Kazakh Rybakina claimed the first break for a 3-1 first-set lead with clean striking off both wings, Pavlyuchenkova took a more aggressive approach and that paid off when she got back on serve at 4-3.
Rybakina, the 21st seed, took that setback in her stride, storming into a 5-0 lead after a tactical first-set battle was taken to a tie-break, which ended with Pavlyuchenkova putting a backhand into the net.
Pavlyuchenkova appeared to have missed out on a fourth chance to break in a long sixth game of the second set when she slipped but looked up while she was sitting on the clay to discover Rybakina had made a mess of a simple smash.
The 29-year-old broke again to wrap up the set and maintained her momentum in the decider, charging into a 2-0 lead - with her backhand firing.
They were back on serve at 4-4 with the nerves jangling following four breaks in five games, both players looking understandably tense but still producing some high-quality tennis.
It was Pavlyuchenkova who claimed the decisive fifth break of a long final set to advance, earning a match point with a rasping forehand winner before her young opponent double-faulted.
Data Slam: A half-century to remember for Pavlyuchenkova
Pavlyuchenkova is making her 50th grand slam main draw appearance and she has marked it with her best run. More proof that persistence pays off.
Pavlyuchenkova – 44/28
Rybakina – 46/43
Pavlyuchenkova – 5/2
Rybakina – 5/6
BREAK POINTS WON
Rybakina – 3/7